Why Kid’s Orders Are Just as Important as  Doctor’s Orders at Cardon Children’s Medical Center

By Laura A. Roser


Rhonda Anderson, nurse, mother, philanthropist and former CEO of Cardon Children’s Medical Center, has led a full life. She started her career as a nurse—inspired by trips to a tuberculosis sanitarium with her grandmother when she was younger. Her grandmother was the superintendent and Rhonda would help out. She also volunteered as a candy striper at one of the local hospitals.

Whether it’s working with patients one-on-one or managing a staff, Rhonda loves helping people. In 2009, she was named the CEO of Cardon Children’s Medical Center and served in that capacity until just recently. (She retired about a month ago and is pursuing her own consulting practice.) “What I’ve had the privilege to do is develop this entire hospital,” Rhonda remarks. The Banner health system had very little pediatric care and made a decision to open a children’s center. Rhonda was involved from the very beginning, conducting the costbenefit analysis, working with the family center advisory committee, and working with children and their parents to design, build and implement not just the physical structure, but also all the programs. “That has been really fun,” she says.

Their focus in building the Children’s Center was on the families. Rhonda would ask the parents and their kids what they wanted and that’s what they built.

“We have a covenant entitled ‘Through the Eyes of the Child’ and the way we defined that is by asking the families what that means to them,” Rhonda says. “So, one sentence of the covenant, for example, is Kid’s orders are as important as doctor’s orders.” Every child’s room is decorated like a house. There is a place for the child to sleep, an area for the parents to sleep, a mini refrigerator and a Plexiglas frame where they can display their own pictures. “On one wall, we have something that’s called All About Me and the child writes about them.” They write about their blue blanket, their dog’s name, about their friends, and so on. That helps the nurses and doctors connect with the child right from the beginning.

On the whiteboards, right next to the place where the doctor writes his or her orders, they have a place for parents and children to write their goals. “They might say, they want to study their school work at a certain time or they take their bath at night. If we know this, we don’t make them take a bath in the morning like a normal hospital routine. It’s already designed around what their orders are for us.”

Children Are Living Messages

When Rhonda thinks about her legacy, a couple things come to mind. The first involves mentoring associates and helping them develop professionally. The second is about helping children. “I have a quote on my desk that I constantly refer to,” Rhonda says. “It’s Children are living messages we send to a time we will not see.” She says this message inspires her when working with child patients and their families, caring for her own children or loving her grandchildren.

When they were raising their own children, Rhonda and her husband did several things to pass on their values and principles. One thing they did was always make their children a part of the decision process. If Rhonda’s husband was considering a new job, for example, they would talk with their children about it and get their feedback during family counsel meetings.

“My daughter, who is now in her forties, gave me a card for my birthday that said it all,” Rhonda recounted. “On the front was a group of children of all ages looking at a person who was having a bicycle race on a very flimsy bridge. The statement on the front said, ‘Wow, look at that person. I’m so glad my mother told us that we were to judge for ourselves, not do what everyone else does and always support each other.’ And I thought, boy that says it all.”

Rhonda also talks about her son, who has a 22-year-old. She says she’s watched how he’s raised him and all the family values are there. Her daughter is also replicating the family ways with her new baby. “There’s such a feeling of joy,” Rhonda says about seeing her children follow the principles she and her husband taught them growing up. “We didn’t say much to them. You have to walk the talk. And that’s what we must have done with our values, our faith, and our belief in family.”

Rhonda Anderson Day

Now that Rhonda is leaving Cardon, the Mayor of Mesa and the City Council developed a proclamation honoring all her contributions to the health world and the community of Mesa. They have made, June 3rd, the day Rhonda retired, the official Rhonda Anderson Day for the city of Mesa.

Moving forward Rhonda plans to consult on projects she’s passionate about, continue her volunteer work, and get in some overdue travel. This year she and her husband plan to go to Southern France, Hawaii, Vail, Illinois, and Florida.

She says one of the favorite things she and her husband Gary do for the community is to be Mr. and Mrs. Claus at Christmas. They get dressed up and several people from their church group dress as elves and they give presents to the children at the medical center. “We know we’re not supposed to cry,” she says, “but every year my husband and I cry when we hear the stories of these struggling families who are dealing with little ones with cancer and other issues. It’s so touching.” My guess is Rhonda and her husband will continue to be Mr. and Mrs. Claus for as long as the hospital allows it.


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Rhonda Anderson, RN, DNSc, FAAN, FACHE, a health care executive with decades of leadership experience, was named CEO of Cardon Children’s Medical Center in late 2009. Anderson previously had served as Banner Health’s pediatric service line administrator and had played an integral role in the planning, development and construction of the new home for Cardon Children’s Medical Center. She now has her own consulting practice.